Let’s face it, open world crime games have been done to death. Grand Theft Auto III blew everyone’s collective mind on the PS2, and immediately imitations filled the market. Hopping in the first car you see and driving around wreaking havoc was such a novel idea at first, but as time went on the experience became stale. Volition and THQ had their own imitator, Saints Row, that admittedly wasn’t that great. Its sequel, Saints Row 2, was over the top and offensive solely for the sake of being offensive. Saints Row: The Third found the line between hilarity and unnecessary fart jokes and tiptoed along it for ten hours. In short, Saints Row: The Third is ludicrous, outrageous and hilarious. It knows exactly what it wants to be and makes no apologies for what it does.
Saints Row: The Third, above all else, values the players’ time. While most games start off at around five to ten mph and eventually throttle up to full speed, The Third starts off by slamming the pedal to the metal and doesn’t even consider hitting the brakes. Even getting in a vehicle has been streamlined as your character dives through windshields and drives off in two seconds. In a genre typically filled with progression from the slums of the city to the high rise penthouses, The Third gives you everything you want within half an hour. The rest of the game is simply having fun.
If there’s one trending theme, it’s that the game plays things fast and loose. The story starts off explosively. The Third Row Saints have become international icons. Having become complacent in their roles in life, the three leading Saints are caught and arrested during a risky bank robbery. Some slower paced side missions (i.e. protect the drug dealer or caravan) regrettably follow the high octane opening. The handful of requisite side missions bring new twists to the typical missions you’d find in an open city. For example: you can get some extra cash with insurance fraud missions by throwing yourself into traffic and watching your character ragdoll between motor vehicles. These missions don’t last too long and there aren’t too many of them to begin with. They are hardly a major focus of the game.
The characters and story of Saints Row: The Third are, for a lack of a better term, redonkulous. I won’t go into any specifics, because the game suffers from what I like to call “Summer Comedy Blockbuster Syndrome.” You may have already heard some of the jokes and situations from other outlets or friends. Having heard some of the best parts of the game before actually playing it, I felt certain moments were dampened, and I have no desire to dampen your experience. I’ll just briefly mention some things within the game without spoiling as much as I can. Tigers, TRON, hover jets, zombies, luchadors, Bonnie Tyler and much much more. Does the story line seem realistic in the slightest? Absolutely not. Is it genuinely funny? Absolutely.
Saints Row: The Third isn’t simply about being crazy just to be crazy. There’s an art to tiptoeing along what is silly and what is downright stupid. The game is fun. It’s not outright offensive like its predecessor. It is entirely tongue in cheek throughout the entire game. Your character acknowledges that every situation he is in is preposterous, but he pushes forwards anyway. In the end, Saints Row: The Third isn’t the perfect game for everyone. However, if you have an open mind and an appreciation for silly humor then you will have an experience that will make you laugh out loud.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Saints Row The Third provided by the reviewer. It is also available for the PS3 and PC.